Human Services

Storybook Farm Inc

We give childhoods back to children

Opelika, AL


Storybook Farm exists to bridge the gap between hope and hardship. We empower children ages two to young adulthood through equine-assisted activities, canine companionship and exploration in nature.

Ruling Year


Founder & President

Dena Hope Little

Main Address

300 Cusseta Rd

Opelika, AL 36801 USA


Youth programs, equine, canine, nature, horticulture, free, recreational, family-centered, faith-based





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Children's and Youth Services (P30)

Other Services (D60)

Agricultural, Youth Development (O52)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

National statistics from 2016 identifying the state of childhoods in the United States is staggering. 17.1 million children have mental health issues like depression, anxiety, ADHD and behavior problems. 15 million children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. 1.5 million children will lose one or both parents before age 15. One out of every 62 children are diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). 2.8 million children have a disability. 700,000 children are victims of abuse each year. This is a problem. We believe childhoods should not be overshadowed by hardships. We are the place parents turn to when their children are in crisis. Storybook Farm is specially designed to meet children at their point of need. We serve those who face mental health issues, physical and cognitive challenges, developmental delays, communication disorders, chronic and terminal illnesses, disabilities, and countless other situations.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Hope on Horseback

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Storybook Farm is on a mission to change childhood. Our desire is for every child to experience the remarkable healing power of animals. In 2002, we began meeting the needs of a handful of children in Auburn, Alabama with the backs of just three horses. Now 18 years later, Storybook Farm welcomes over 1,500 children annually from 10 counties across Alabama and Georgia - with the help of 30+ animals and over 1,000 volunteers.

At Storybook, children learn naturally. Our strategy to improve the overall well-being of children and their families is a three-fold approach. First, in Paddington Station and Emerald City Arenas, children experience life from a different vantage point - the back of a horse. Horseback riding is a fun recreational activity. It also provides many intrinsic benefits including emotional and psychological encouragement, physical development, improved cognitive and communication skills, greater self-confidence and self-assurance as well as endless educational opportunities. Developing and improving all these skills are essential for growth and maturity. Second, we believe dogs are good for kids. They have an innate ability to read emotions; they are loyal and have an affinity for hugs and kisses. They teach lessons on responsibility, selflessness, compassion and thinking on your feet. With these points in mind, we created two canine areas: the Fox and the Hound Playground, a two-acre dog park and Ribsy’s Dog House home of Storybook Tails, a literacy initiative. Third, in our world of wonder and whimsy, spending time outdoors is not only beneficial, but a necessity. In the Secret Garden and on Flat Stanley’s Sensory Trail, children engage with nature, stimulate the senses, strengthen fine motor skills, and some discover (for the first time) tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons grow on vines not in grocery stores! Nature sparks the imagination and is a catalyst for all kinds of questions about the earth and the life it supports.

Storybook Farm We serve individual families, groups and school classrooms with no regard for situation or financial ability. No child must “qualify” to participate. We support 24 local and regional youth non-profits as well and provide all programming at no charge. When our barn doors opened in 2002, I could never have imagined the Storybook of today: - Providing six educational programs: Hope on Horseback (hands-on experiences with horses), Storybook Tails (reading initiative with kids and canine companions), Flat Stanley's Sensory Trail (nature trail to engage the senses), Fox and the Hound Playground (2-acre dog park for play with Storybook's canines), The Secret Garden (harvest seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruit trees to encourage sustainable living) and Pixie Hollow (engagement with Storybook's miniature horses, donkeys and goats) - Utilizing a 51-acre farm including Paddington Station and Emerald City riding arenas, Prancing Pony Pavilion and the Papa Bear Horse Center Our infrastructure was completed in 2005. It supported 200 annual participants and 12 horses. As the years rolled along, we found there to be a few shortcomings that inhibited our mission. We did not have sufficient indoor areas for educational activities and adverse weather often hampered our ability to hold programs. Our volunteer base outgrew the workspace provided to develop children’s programming. We lacked private meeting room for parents and supporters to discuss confidential matters. and adequate housing for an increasing equine staff. We operated in conditions above what our accommodations could adequately provide for many years. To try and keep up with the demand for our services, we created temporary equine housing as more horses joined our team, repurposed our children's library to store riding tack, and moved feed supplies into our tool storage shed. Unfortunately, it finally reached a point where growing pains limited our impact and our accommodations could stretch no further. In Spring 2019, thanks to immense support from businesses and foundations, we finally began designing a facility on par with the needs of our community. The result is the new Papa Bear Horse Center, a 10,000+ sq. ft. facility, currently just weeks away from completion. Home to both horses and hope, this barn remedies several crucial insufficiencies present in the original barn. The expansion is transformative. The Papa Bear Horse Center advances us one step closer to our vision that all children have the opportunity to experience the power of the human-animal bond. To that end, we plan to introduce more horses to our program to serve the hundreds of children currently on our waitlist.

Every organization, no matter what its mission or scope, needs three kinds of performance metrics—to measure its success in mobilizing its resources, its staff’s effectiveness on the job, and its progress in fulfilling its mission. We believe Information on what the staff is doing, take-up and usage of program services, and what constituents think of operations can help create a better program and stronger organization. At Storybook Farm, our desire is that the imprint we leave on children be significant. For possibility to be as real as the sun on their faces. We believe how we champion children today will impact their tomorrow. I can't remember a day when a smile, an encouraging word, or a meaningful connection hasn't sparked hopefulness. The gracious reality is that we can all help. When we collectively do that, impact is inevitable. Here, we strive to redefine "success" from quantitative measures towards more edifying measures, because the value of true, life-shaping impact is oftentimes beyond the scope of mere numbers. It is in the priceless smiles on the faces of children who have been waiting months for this moment and in the unequivocal portrayal of companionship as parents are connected with others walking down a similar path in life. It is in the hopefulness that fills a parent's heart as they watch their child succeed and flourish and move in ways they formerly thought impossible. It is in the sense of purpose and responsibility discovered by a college-age volunteer as they recognize the value of service not only for others but for themselves as well. It is in the power of a community gathering together to contribute to and support a cause that is exponentially larger than themselves. Our belief is that when a child has the opportunity to explore and discover their inherent strengths, coping and social skills improve. Here at Storybook, we promote the fact that children respond to animals in ways they often can’t to people. The human-animal bond helps bring out a nurturing instinct, and learning to care for animals seems to develop a sense of responsibility and caring among children who may not have known that in themselves. This impact is far-reaching and long-lasting as these children are commissioned into the world, taking with them the beautiful capacity to care, to love and to trust and believe in themselves. The activities our participants engage in will measure and showcase their emotional, reading and intellectual improvements. This space provides a specially designed area for children to not only demonstrate how much they’ve grown, but to practice their new skills in a safe, patient environment. Our success in this endeavor will be gauged through the victories of each individual served at Storybook and the steps they will continue to take towards a happy, healthy, and joyful life.

We’ve all experienced the power of a place. It moves you. It connects you. Moments like that are organic and visceral at Storybook Farm. We boast a culture built on relationships. We draw limitless inspiration from literature and reap unique opportunities to spark exploration and learning. We are THAT place for thousands of children and volunteers each year. Storybook Farm was named the "2009 Farm of Distinction" by the Lee County Farm City Committee. In the fall of 2011, Storybook Farm received "The Partnership of the Year Award" presented by the East Alabama Governor's Committee as well as a "Certificate of Appreciation" from the United States Department of Agriculture for work with individuals with disabilities. In addition, Storybook Farm was featured in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Healthy Pets and Healthy People" website in the fall of 2013. Chick-fil-A recognized Storybook Farm with the November 2013 "Community and Character Counts" award. In 2017, Storybook Farm was named Small Business of the Quarter by the Opelika Chamber of Commerce. In 2018, Dena Little, Storybook Farm's Founder, received a resolution by the Senate of Alabama for professional achievement and service to the community. In 2018 and 2019, Storybook Farm was awarded Best Service Organization by Hull Property Group’s Auburn Summer Showcase. In 2019, Dena Little was recognized by the Jr. League of Lee County as a Distinguished Woman of Service. At Storybook, children learn about animals and friendship, but even more importantly they learn about themselves. Helping a child overcome adversity through the power of the human-animal bond is why we do what we do. We welcome individual families, groups and classrooms with no regard for situation or financial ability. No child must “qualify” to participate; we are here to serve any child in need of our life-changing experiences. Additionally, we support 24 local and regional youth non-profits that attend Storybook Farm field trips and annual family-centered holiday parties.

External Reviews


Storybook Farm Inc

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2018, 2017 and 2016
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Not Applicable


Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Not Applicable


Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

Not Applicable